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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

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No plan to downgrade West Cumberland Hospital

West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven will NOT become a cottage hospital, health bosses have insisted.

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Ann Farrar: Trust chief executive received the letter from MP Jamie Reed

The question was asked by a Facebook group campaigning to ensure vital services remain at the Whitehaven hospital.

Siobhan Gearing, of Mirehouse, who heads the group, said they needed a list of what services are at risk and that the group wanted assurances that it wouldn’t be downgraded to a cottage hospital.

At a meeting of the North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust board this week, chief executive Ann Farrar said: “West Cumberland Hospital isn’t planned to be a cottage hospital – it isn’t now and will not be in the future.

“A cottage hospital is just two or three wards, for example like at Maryport. West Cumberland will have an A&E service and will admit acute medical patients.”

Mrs Farrar said that trauma and high-risk emergency services, which had gone to Carlisle from Whitehaven would not be brought back because staff needed to be based together in large teams.

The Whitehaven hospital will be carrying out many more planned operations such as cataracts, hernias, hip and knee replacements.

Mrs Farrar also said some work will be carried out at the West Cumberland which, although not considered high-risk, would be “just below” that level.

“Will there be change?” said the chief executive. “Undoubtedly. But that change is both ways. There will be a lot of work that can be done here (Whitehaven) and that won’t always be low-risk.”

Medical director Jeremy Rushmer added that by taking the highest risk patients to Carlisle they had lowered the mortality risk.

“It’s a case of what we can deliver with the staff that we have got,” said Gina Tiller, trust board chairman. “We want safe, sustainable services.”

Mrs Gearing also asked what was happening with maternity at Whitehaven. It was reported last week that an independent report suggested one option might be to move consultant-led care to Carlisle and leave Whitehaven with a midwifery-led unit.

Mrs Farrar said there would not be a decision on maternity for some time.

She said currently there was just one anaesthetic rota to support medical, intensive care and maternity but national standards say there should be two. “The rota we have at the moment, we are struggling to staff,” she added.

Asked whether the trust board thought it was safe to consider an option of women from West Cumbria travelling in an ambulance 40 miles to give birth, Mrs Farrar – and the trust board – said they thought it was a safe option to consider and that all possible options would be explored.

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